Giving an aging NBA player like Luol Deng a lucrative contract is one of the worst offseason moves the Los Angeles Lakers ever made in their franchise history. The deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers somewhat helped them free enough salary cap space to sign two maximum-salaried players in the upcoming offseason. However, Deng’s contract may hinder them from keeping Julius Randle.
Randle is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. Though his name popped up in various NBA rumors before the February 8 trade deadline, his recent performance showed why the Lakers should re-sign him in the upcoming offseason. In the month of February, Randle is averaging 19.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting 58.9 percent from the field.
Unfortunately, bringing Julius Randle back isn’t the Lakers’ top priority. As everyone knows, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka will try to lure superstars in Los Angeles this summer. Names of LeBron James and Paul George emerged as the Lakers’ top target in free agency.
If the Lakers succeed in signing both superstars, they could fail to re-sign Randle, especially if he receives a huge offer from other NBA teams. Teams like the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz have enough salary cap room to steal the talented forward from the Lakers.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers could keep Randle if James and George both agreed to take less money which is very unlikely to happen. Pincus believes the “best answer” for the Lakers to achieve their offseason goals is to be able to trade Luol Deng. Per Sportrac, the 32-year-old small forward is signed until 2019-2020 NBA season.
He only played one game this season and has been a huge disappointment in his first year in Los Angeles. As Pincus noted, the Lakers will be needing to sacrifice a first-round pick to find a team who will absorb Deng’s contract.
“If the Lakers can trade Deng outright that may be the best answer. The cost would undoubtedly start at a first-round pick, be it the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pick L.A. received in the Clarkson/Nance trade, or perhaps one of the team’s own selections in subsequent years.”
Luol Deng entered the 2017-18 NBA season with the goal of reviving his career. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given the opportunity to prove himself after the Lakers decided to give more playing time to their young forwards like Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. As of now, Deng is only seen as a hindrance to the Lakers’ long-term plan.